Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Air India’s group bookings come under a cloud over shutdown fears

Mumbai: Air India’s advance group bookings may have been impacted due to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri’s statement in Parliament last month that “the airline will have to close down if it’s not privatised.”

The Centre has announced that it was looking to divest Air India and its subsidiaries. The national carrier has been facing an acute cash crunch for the past few fiscals. For April-November, Air India’s losses zoomed to ₹4,685 crore, as against a loss of ₹1,658 crore recorded in FY2019.

Air India has a debt book of around ₹60,000 crore, including total current liabilities of ₹15,000 crore owed to vendors, lessors, employees and airport operators.

A senior official said that Puri’s statement “was impactful on our revenues”. The group bookings account for 4-5 per cent of revenues of Air India, “but, we are correcting it,” he added.

When asked how the airline was being managed with limited funds, he said: “We will work till we can; if they (government) do not want to give us more funds, and if they ask us to shut shop, we will. We have no option.”

Air India has 125 aircraft in its fleet, while its subsidiary Air India Express has 25, and Alliance Air 19. Of the 169 aircraft in total, 20 aircraft of Air India were grounded earlier this year.

Said the official: “We have recovered eight grounded widebody aircraft including two Boeing 777s and four B787-800s (Dreamliners). Twelve Airbus A320 family aircraft are still grounded. A few of these aircraft will be used on the Mumbai-Stansted route that is set to start in February 2020.
31/12/19 Forum Gandhi/Business Line
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